I saw you that night -

fumbling, trying to locate a place

for the temporary, cartoon, bumble bee tattoo.

You tried the small of your left wrist, the inside

of your arm, the back of your hand.

You peeled the back off carefully -

each time -

expecting it to be there, as a sticker would.

I smiled at your lack of water

and understanding, at your frustration -

looking away in your acknowledgement.


After dinner, you roll the toothpick

in the palm of your hand. You flip

it over and under, test the sharp tip,

pick your teeth.



Finally, with a smile, it settles

in the corner of your cheek.

When I lean in to kiss you, you quickly

take in the toothpick, hiding

it just behind your puckered lips –

just as my dad did

when kissing me goodnight.



Your dimples, much deeper than his.

Childhood Religion.

Walking into church
through the heavy door
onto just swept carpet.


A bulletin from Poppa,
gum to chew, pen from mom’s purse
I plop down in the back row pew


beside a brother to poke during prayer.
Velvet jade hymn books.
Communion’s leftover shot glasses.


The angled sunlight pinpoints my position
to the pulpit, I avoid the pastor’s eyes
intensified by glasses and puny frame.


I count ceiling wood panels
travel the cracks in the stained glass
wonder if it’s noon yet.


But Pastor Steve always runs over
clenches his fist to stress
the final, final point.


My brother and I plan our escape
head down, squeezing through the line
molding ourselves against the opposite doorway


avoiding his questions
his small talk
his too familiar handshake.



Appeared in Referential Magazine, November 2012

Reviews of Chapbook

These are poems that distract us from the horrors and clutter of the larger world and guide us back to the small moments in life that are, perhaps, the only ones that truly matter.

~Cathy Smith Bowers


Despite the title, Jenny Billings Beaver’s debut collection is far from “ordinary.” These poems create a thorough and vivid emotional narrative that draws the reader in and resonates with the reader long after the turning of each page. Charming and frightening, powerful and comforting, the poems from Ordinary Things celebrate, simply, the endurance of living.

~Dominique Traverse Locke, author of The Goodbye Child and No More Hard Times


Daddy chooses to pass over

church most Sundays.

He and mom don’t fight about it –

it’s just their contract.


He rests in his recliner

pretends to watch “This Old House,”

but we know as soon as we leave

his head will bow.


Two hours later,

he greets us from

his same abode

sleepily eyed asking,


How was church?

Then he rises to take the milk and

bread from mom’s hands

and follows her to the table.


While he is gone

I declare his chair

sink into worn blue leather

receiving his warmth.


Appeared in The Penwood Review, May 2012


comes up to the counter. She just moved

into the area and wants to see what we have

to offer. She says she’s 86 and looking

for old folk exercise. She has a bad left leg

but needs a six week plan before she’s off to London.


She weighs 150 pounds but hates her belly

and how things shift downwards

after 70. She recently put on weight

because she just can’t get used to cooking for 1.


She believes in sporadic ten day binges,

where she’ll lose eight or ten pounds fast –

only to gain five back that year. She admits

to taking diet pills but they won’t kill you.


When I ask her to fill out the forms,

she resists. She doesn’t allow just anyone in

her bank account; well, except for the newspaper.

You just don’t know who to trust these days.


Appeared in The Penwood Review, May 2012

Something Metallic and Harsh.

“Accidents happen…”
The other day, able
to plant your feet.
Right now,
far out there, the oil
rig blew up
you can breathe in –
sappy turns to angry.

Drill, baby, drill.

Explosion, tar balls
wash up
bizarre solutions
hair, hay, pantyhose
Chemical seas,
oil befouling
the long term effects
won’t be pretty.

Repeat the mantra
Without reservation:

Drill, baby, drill.

Appeared in Poets for Living Waters, May 2010